Victoria’s consumer watchdog has issued an alert to small business owners to be aware of conmen stealing businesses’ identities and ripping off consumers.
Consumer Affairs Victoria has received multiple complaints against some men who adopted the identity of a Queensland roofing business to trick Victorian homeowners into paying them for subpar services.
Strongguard Roofing was contacted earlier this month by a Melbourne man who had been scammed by a group of people purporting to be from the Queensland business.
Director Warren Hebbard told SmartCompany Strongguard Roofing doesn’t do any business in Victoria.
“The Melbourne man had originally checked our company website and went with them believing they were a trustworthy business, but when he realised they weren’t he contacted us via email and we chased it up,” Hebbard says.
“We then got another email from a different home in the same area, so we contacted Consumer Affairs Victoria.”
Consumer Affairs Victoria director Claire Noone said in a statement the conmen would knock on people’s doors spruiking their work and tell homeowners to check Strongguard Roofing’s website to verify their business credentials.
“If they do any work, it’s likely to be shoddy and unfinished,” she says.
Strongguard has since put up a warning on its website warning customers of the dodgy copycats.
Hebbard says in one case a number of houses in a single street were targeted, with a group of eight conmen, possibly from Ireland, pretending to be from the company.
“While we don’t do any business in Victoria, because of the internet this type of scam trashes our name,” he says.
“It’s a pretty serious issue.”
Consumer Affairs Victoria says the travelling conmen would offer a cheap deal for ‘today only’ to consumers on jobs such as painting, roof repairs and sealing bitumen driveways.
The men would pressure the consumers to pay up front and then perform shoddy work or not finish the job.
“They were going in cheap and unfortunately people often grab deals which look too good to be true,” Hebbard says.
“Because we think these guys are from overseas they’ll be pretty hard to catch unless they’re caught on a job. If they’ve gotten away with a fair few houses they may change tact and adopt a new business identity.”
Noone says it’s important for consumers to check a business’s credentials.
“Look up the business’ contact details – don’t use the details the person provides – and call the business to ask if the person at your door represents the company,” she says.
“There is a very real risk to your business’ reputation. Reports provide valuable intelligence to help us warn the community and stop conmen.”
Hebbard says these conmen have a leaflet with their business name on it and a phone number which isn’t theirs.
“They picked our business because we’re a known company, but maybe because we’re in Queensland they thought they’d get away with it,” he says.
“To get these emails and see someone else is using our name, it was very disappointing. Blood, sweat and tears went into building the business and then someone comes along and just tries to trash our name.”
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